“Reparation” is a term which has been largely and unfortunately ignored in theological circles since the Second Vatican Council. It has been all too often relegated to the category of “pious devotions” by some activists who claim that it has been rightly replaced by the “option for the poor” and by no few religious communities which were originally founded with reparation as one of their fundamental ends. It is nonetheless, I am convinced, a topic which calls for the attention of Catholics who are serious about the spiritual life and apostolic activity. I also believe that it is of particular relevance to those involved in the pro-life movement in this era which seems more contemptuous of human life than any previous period in history.
No doubt this is precisely because our world has almost entirely lost “the sense of sin,” a prophetic declaration which was first sounded by Pius XII in a radio message delivered to a Catechetical Congress held in Boston on 26 October, 1946 (1) and echoed many times since by the present Pontiff. (2) Indeed, we will have no real sense of sin until we recognize what our sins did to Christ. As both the Roman Catechism and now also the Catechism of the Catholic Church put it: “sinners were the authors and the ministers of all the sufferings that the divine Redeemer endured.” (3) I would like to sketch here briefly a theological outline of reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary with specific reference to the burning pro-life issues of our day.
Virtually every Pope since Pius XI has emphasized that our primary response to the love of God manifested in the Heart of Jesus is the twofold work of consecration and reparation. In his monumental encyclical devoted to this theme, Miserentissimus Redemptor, Pope Pius XI called the Church to embrace the practice of reparation.
Here is the way he put it:
Whereas the primary object of consecration is that the creature should repay the love of the Creator by loving him in return, yet from this another naturally follows—that is, to make amends for the insults offered to the Divine Love by oblivion and neglect, and by the sins and offenses of mankind. This duty is commonly called by the name of “reparation.” (4)
It seems to me that the topic of reparation to the Hearts of Jesus and Mary can motivate and deepen Catholics’ involvement in the pro-life movement in many ways. I will try to draw some of them out as I explore the meaning of reparation as it involves the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
II. Heart of Jesus—Propitiation for Our Sins
The first and most fundamental way in which reparation is understood theologically is as the atonement, expiation, propitiation or satisfaction which Christ has made for us to the Father in his redemptive sacrifice. Each of these words emphasizes with a slightly different accent the profound truth that once man fell into sin he was incapable of “making up” for the offense which he had caused to God and the disorder which he had introduced into the universe. (5) Only Jesus could repair the damage done by sin and make the reparation owed to God in justice. The Catechism of the Catholic Church neatly synthesizes this concept thus:
It is the love “to the end” (Jn. 13:1) that confers